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Brittany: A Room (Or Not) Of One’s Own

Hi everyone. My name is Brittany and I’ve been hard at work on a novel for the last two years. I live in SC with my husband, 17 month old son, and baby #2, another boy, who will be born in early June. For now, I don’t get a lot of time to write. I try to jot down ideas while my son is playing, but more times than not, he ends up stealing the pen out of my hand and following that up with a victory dance where he leaps triumphantly on my notebook. For the last 6 months, I have done the bulk of my writing in very short bursts during my son’s nap time–which is unfortunately only once a day. It frustrates me to no end, but the alternative is even more frustrating.

I’ve made a lot of progress though, with over 200 pages written and 39 chapters under my belt. The key to my success is trying to achieve a level of zen while animal crackers are ground into my keyboard and empty sippy cups are hurled at my head. My mantra is always “If not today, then tomorrow.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mother who writes. Ordinarily, when I think of a “writer” I imagine a reclusive character locked behind a door who neither eats nor sleeps for days. I think of this person because that is how I used to write before I had obligations to other people. I still have an “office” but I use the term loosely. An office seems to signify a private place to conduct one’s business and that is hardly how I would describe the place I do most of my writing. As a mother, I fully expect to find toys littering the floor and a strange assortment of other odds and ends that my son finds endlessly amusing. Lately, it has been the remnants of a bag of polyfill stuffing that he excavated from my craft basket. There are times I wish I could push everything outside the door and lock myself in. All I want is one day where I can write and make some real measurable progress. But of course, I can’t do that and I know it. The thing is, other people know it too, and very occasionally, someone will say to me “Come to my house. Bring the baby. I’ll watch him while you write.” There is a special place in heaven for these people. And I always take them up on their offer.

As a mother, I already know that it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m also learning that a village is also essential when you’re a writer. It takes that many offered spaces to get your novel finished!

Where do the rest of you write? And how do you carve out space for yourself in the midst of chaos?

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Welcome, Brittany! Your accumulated output is impressive. You’re another great example of creative success through blending–integrating creativity into your daily life as much as possible, understanding the need for flexibility. This doesn’t work for all of us all the time, but while it works, good for you!

    At the moment I write in a very comfortable chair with my laptop balanced on a lap desk. This chair is located in our supposed dining room, which is currently a playroom/office combo. Sometimes this works, but I fear my toddler’s only memory of me will be my face buried in my computer. (Doing “work” work far more than creative work.) It’s also not great for me to be so centrally located when our babysitter is here. We’re trying to move, and the house we hope to build has–gasp!–a truly separate office, all for me, with wood floors and French doors to boot. I’ve been wondering lately if a room of one’s own really does make a big difference–and I hope to find out!

    I too am expecting a new baby soon, and am a little apprehensive about what will happen to the scraps of creative time that I have now. Do you have any plans for coping? Just the thought of returning to sleep deprivation gives me hives….

    January 29, 2008
  2. Welcome, Brittany! Where in SC do you live? We’re hoping to relocate to Greenville, this year if at all possible.

    I write in my 12×24′ living room. My boys play here too (unless the older one is trying to avoid his baby brother, LOL) and it’s easy for me to remain engaged with them, for the most part. Not so great for writing, but like you and Miranda, I deal with that. I tend to overuse TV and video. 😛

    I didn’t have any great expectations for my writing when my second son was due. That was largely because my first had a terrible case of reflux that took months to resolve, so although I’d planned to be back to work at 12 weeks, it was more like 6 months before I actually got there. My second boy also had reflux, but I was prepared this time! So I did more writing, though I also had to be sure to give the older one plenty of attention.

    I use a PDA as well as my desktop computer, and this has helped immensely – I can work in the car, for instance, or just sitting on the sofa while they watch a video. Not perfect (the older boy likes to play on it) but better than nothing on many days!

    January 29, 2008
  3. I hope to have my novel finished by the time son #2 makes his arrival. That is my major goal for 2008. After that, I think we’ll just embrace the chaos theory around here for awhile. I don’t picture myself writing again until the fall, which is fine by me. For whatever reason, I always seem to have a burst of creativity in October/November that carries me through the spring. Then it gets too hot to think anymore. Is anyone else’s creative output seasonal?

    January 30, 2008
  4. Yes – I tend to be most creative at the beginnings of seasons. Isn’t that strange? I think it’s because of a sense of having a fresh start.

    As for heat affecting it – when I was pregnant with #2, I was thinking about novel #2, in which a character is pregnant. I was taking notes on how I felt and what I was thinking, but not going any further – I was indeed too hot! But it adds up to about 20,000 words so far, so not too shabby, right? 🙂

    January 30, 2008
  5. Welcome, Brittany! Hang in there, girl. My kids are older now, 10, 12 and 14, and despite how busy I am it’s easier to find time now that they’re getting to be self-sufficient.

    My writing time for everything save my column, blogging and grad school work has taken a back seat to my life. I’m trying to carve out time to go on writing retreats this year, as I did over Thanksgiving weekend last year. I had to get away last Thanksgiving as life and work and everything were dragging me down, but I don’t recommend skipping family holidays normally. I did get some good writing time, also good walking/taking photos, but I was nearly going buggy by the time it was over!

    I have an office in my house, which helps. I can retreat there for a portion of pretty much every day, and I get a fair amount of work done. But again my kids are older, so that’s a different ballgame.

    I’d say rely on wonderful friends and family, and get away when you can. I think what you’ve already done is remarkable! And your attitude sounds great.

    Good luck!


    January 30, 2008
  6. Oh Brittany! you have an office? 🙂

    Let me tell you… I have a 5 year old (who starts school in Sept.) and a 5 month old. I write for 10 minutes at a time. And somedays that is all I get… that one 10 minute chunk. That is it.

    Whomever you hang out with that offers to watch your kidling(s) while you write… they are wonderful. I don’t have that. And my husband–bless him–doesn’t even always offer that to me. I have to ask.

    That is something I have learned. ASK if you need the time away…. and guess what, you’ll definitely get it!

    February 1, 2008
  7. Bethany, how do you do it? I’m in awe that you do anything in 10 minutes. I always have to have a warm up period where I clear my head… although I think that’s a luxury that I won’t have with 2 children. Do you do any pre-writing, note jotting, anything like that or do you just write?

    February 1, 2008
  8. caseycairo #

    Hi Brittany, and welcome!
    Like you, I have a young daugher (2 yrs) and trying to write is challenging. I’m separated from my husband and we are going through a long, protracted divorce. He used to take her to his place 2 days a week, which was great, but he’s away on business for a year, so that leaves me. I have a few friends in the area, but they are all like me, too busy! I know I could ask them to do anything, and I am content with that knowledge, preferring not to do the actual asking. Recently I’ve taken to going to my parents’ house for the weekend, and my mom takes my daugher while I write. I may do this once every other weekend for a while, but it’s a godsend. My mom cooks the meals, cares for my two dogs and daughter, and I sit near their woodstove, making a mess of their kitchen table and I just write until I’m done. I’m only writing a textbook, and it doesn’t require the creativity that your work does, so it’s easier to just do it on command. When I’m not at my mom’s I go to sleep with my daughter at 7:30 PM, and then wake up at 4:00 and have 3 1/2 hours of uninterruped, fresh time. The downside of that is that by the time it’s time for work, I feel like it’s midnight. You’re very lucky to have the friends that you do. You’re doing a hard job (about to get harder with #2) and you deserve a lot of credit… 39 chapters? Amazing!! Congratulations!

    February 4, 2008
  9. jennymomof4 #

    I currently write here at the desk, in the livingroom with 5 other people and a dog cruising by. Alone time? Never going to happen for me, at least not until we move to our big house sometime this summer,… if I can get the renovations on this house complete by then.

    My favorite place to think is the bathroom. I’m alone there 50% of the time. 😛

    I think back to when I had my articles published. I worked on a primitive typewriter with what the maker called a “word processor”, which was ridiculous because it merely had a 1/2 inch by 2 inch window where words passed by. My husband paid $120 for it, which was crazy expensive! I would sit on the living room floor with a baby literally crawling over me and the typewriter and I have no clue how I accomplished anything worthwhile.

    February 4, 2008

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